Resources / Why Christ Alone

Why Christ Alone


by David Chong

Apologetics Seminar conducted by L. T. Jeyachandran of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry

Introduction

By looking at creation, we can know something about the Creator. But our best efforts from a finite starting point do not provide the complete picture. We need a self-revelation of God on which our reason may reflect.

There have been many gurus and prophets who claim special revelation from God that would solve the problems of humanity. While Confucius, Mohammad, Moses and Buddha never claimed to be God, Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth and Life.

Why Believe the Trinity?

To be sure, the Jewish disciples of Jesus strictly believed in one God. Yet the Man with whom they lived and whom they followed certainly gave unmistakable impressions that He was more than a man.

He forgave sins, something unthinkable to the Jewish mind. He calmed the raging sea by a command. When He taught them to pray, He excluded Himself from that prayer because He did not need to ask God the Father for forgiveness of sins. He was perfectly without sin. After His death on the cross, He resurrected with a body that defies laws of physics. Moreover, He never refused worship and implied His claim to Deity by calling Himself "the Son of God" and "Son of Man".

After He ascended to heaven, these early disciples experienced an intra-personal encounter with the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Holy Spirit faithfully represented the God they read about in Scripture and the Jesus they had known.

They were compelled to grant some kind of Plurality within the Unity of the God in whom they had always believed. While the word "Trinity" does not appear in the Bible, the doctrine historically developed because of the existential encounter of the disciples with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, whom they recognized as God. At the same time, there cannot be three gods like polytheism held by the Gentiles.

The only possible conclusion was that within the One Being of God there was plurality of Persons. It is a mystery, but not a logical contradiction.

Why is this historical development of the doctrine of Trinity relevant to our presentation of the Gospel to atheists and others? It is necessary because reflections on the Triune nature of God make more sense than all other claimants.

Unity in Diversity

The universe has diverse components which act in harmony. We are made, physically and chemically, of the same elements yet we are so different from other human beings, things and animals. In such diversity, we are interdependent on each other so that the unity cannot be missed.

A painting of many colors produces a harmonious mosaic. An orchestra of many musical instruments produces a symphony, instead of cacophony. If there is unity in diversity in the creation, is it not reasonable to expect unity and diversity in the Creator?

Community within God

Holiness in its most perfect form is expressed as Love. For God to be Love (and be Just), there must be an object He relates to. If God needs to create human beings in order to actualize His love, then He would have been dependent and imperfect before creation. How could God be actually a loving God before an object is created?

All these questions have only one answer. God is not a one-dimensional, philosophical idea. He is a robust, inter-personal Being. God is love because the Father loved the Son before the world came into existence (John 17:24). Only a relational God can create a diverse world in harmonious relations (Genesis 1:1-3). A unitary deity cannot actualize inter-personal relationship and has no room for varying particulars.

The qualities of God outlined in "What is God Like?" are actualized in the full-orbed understanding of the Triune Being revealed in Scripture and Jesus Christ. The uniqueness of Christ consists not only in His Being but also His atonement for the sins of humankind.

What's Sin?

Sin is a breakdown in relationship between humans and God. We were made to relate with other human beings, and relate harmoniously with nature as faithful stewards. Our supreme relationship is with the Creator who deserves our worship. Studies in anthropology show that people of diverse cultures are deeply religious.

Our rebellion against God also ruptured the relationship within ourselves (alienation), with others (conflicts) and with nature (exploitation of the environment). Is not death, the consequence of sin, a break in relationship between body and spirit?

What's so Amazing about Grace?

How can God repair sin-damaged relationships? Let us consider the psychological dynamics of Forgiveness.

When we are hurt, we struggle to forgive the perpetrator. This is natural. In fact, we can even conclude that forgiveness easily given is no forgiveness at all. Unless we feel the hurt deeply and decide to forgive in spite of it; that forgiveness is superficial. But when God forgives us, it is only because He has felt the hurt deeply at
the cross of Calvary.

If God is just, how can He let sinners go scot-free without punishment? However if God could deal with the legal aspects of sin and still forgive the sinner, then forgiveness is possible without compromising the justice of God.

We should digress somewhat and consider animal sacrifices found in all ancient religions. These religions teach that deity has been offended for whatever reason and has to be appeased by the blood of sacrifice. The Old Testament is clearer in stating that the animal sacrifice was a substitute for the wrongdoer. The animal bears his punishment, so to speak.

How can any animal or anyone substitute for someone else? It is common experience that we bear the consequences of not only our own deeds – good or bad – but also of others'. There is an inescapable solidarity between all creatures in God's relational world. No individual is an island and so, our lives affect each other.

The Bible also shows us that the animal sacrifices in pre-Christian tradition looks forward to the final sacrifice that God will make in Jesus Christ as a Substitute for sinners. God will have borne fully the hurt for proffering forgiveness and vindicated His justice through the cross.

Fully God, Fully Man

One final question: How can Jesus be fully God and fully Man? It's not half-god, half-man. In Genesis, God made man in His own image. It doesn't mean that God looks like a humanoid. It means that human shares certain characteristics with God albeit at a finite level. Our rationality, morality and capacity for interpersonal relationships reflect the Triune God in our finite existence. Therefore when the Son of God decides to become human for our sake, He lays aside the
extra dimensions of infinite being voluntarily without ceasing to be God in His essence.

It's like a three-dimensional Cube that would want to become a square in a two-dimensional world by giving up one of its linear dimensions. It's still 100% cube in 3 dimensions and 100% square in 2 dimensions only because the square is the image (in 2 dimensions) of the Cube. It's not a logical contradiction for the Person of Jesus to have two natures – fully God and fully man – because humans were created in God's image.

Conclusion

The Incarnate God-man Jesus Christ was crucified, dead and buried. However He resurrected on the third day. The human dilemma is not primarily intellectual, but moral and relational. Our return to God through Jesus is the only way for forgiveness and salvation. If there was another way, God would have taken it because it would be infinitely less costly. The crucified Lord still bears the marks of His suffering on His glorified body while all our defects would be removed at His return. (Rev 5:6) His sacrificial love will be the theme song of heaven. (Rev 5:12-14)

Recommended Reading:

1. The Case For Christ (Lee Strobel)
2. Christ Among Other Gods (Erwin Lutzer)
3. Jesus Among Other Gods (Ravi Zacharias)